ARISTEA FOTOPOULOU (UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX), YECREA REPRESENTATIVE DIGITAL CULURE AND COMMUNICATION SECTION
Event Report, November 2013
‘Planning a non-conventional academic career in digital culture and communication: Challenges and opportunities’
YECREA meeting, Friday 5 October 2013, 16.30-17.45. DCC Annual Workshop, Bonn 2-5 October 2013.
Researchers in the early stages of their career and young scholars share similar concerns that relate to the current state of insecurity in academic fields, throughout Europe. For scholars in the fields of digital media and digital culture in particular, this insecurity can be even more pressing, especially since questions around ‘big data’, internet and society are increasingly becoming the focus of other disciplines. At the same time, this spread of focus provides some new opportunities for digital media and communication scholars, to cross-fertilise their research and to work across conventional disciplinary boundaries, and seek alternative homes, practices and collaborations that can help their ideas grow. This much needed workshop was aimed at young and emerging scholars (Postgraduate students, Doctoral students and early career scholars) within the fields of Digital Culture and Communication.
The workshop addressed questions such as: How can I draw a career path that is responsive to the changing state of the field? How can I develop my first grant proposal in digital culture and communication? How can I write a CV which reflects my strengths to produce robust research? And what is the actual situation of professionals in the field – how do they see the opportunities and hindrances for a professional future in digital culture and communication? During the workshop we discussed how scholars in different stages of their careers confront specific challenges in our field. We tried to draw on similarities and differences that apply in different European contexts, as well as on experiences and strategies that scholars at different stages have followed in their personal careers. The plenary discussion provided helpful insights and helped to address questions, share thoughts and personal issues of participants, related to the state of the field. Invited speakers in the session were Prof Elisenda Ardevol (Chair of ECREA Digital Culture and Communication), Dr Veronica Barassi (Goldsmiths, University of London), Jessica Einspänner, MA (University of Bonn), Dr Kate O’Riordan (University of Sussex), Dr Lucia Vesnic-Alujevic (European Commission – JRC), and was chaired by Dr Aristea Fotopoulou (YECREA Representative in the DCC Section, University of Sussex).
After a brief introduction by the Chair, each of the participants gave a brief talk about:
- Where they place themselves in relation to the wider disciplinary fields of digital culture and communication
- What they see as some potential challenges and opportunities for (other) European young scholars in the fields of digital culture and communication.
Most speakers noted that digital media now seems to be everywhere, and not just in media studies departments. What becomes perhaps challenging is how to address the specificity of the digital, which is increasingly a question that students pose.
Kate O’Riordan noted that a challenge is to maintain a critical perspective within this context, and also identified precarious employment and the economic crisis as the challenging conditions for young scholars today.
Elisenda Ardevol talked about how studies and University Departments in digital culture and communication have transformed during the last 20 years and stressed that strictly speaking “digital culture is not a disciplinary field: it is an emerging object, which is complex and interdisciplinary in its constitution”. She saw opportunities for young and emerging scholars because they can develop their own expertise and research, coming from different disciplinary backgrounds. She gave the example of her own personal research, which was an anthropological study of Roma districts, and how this led her to internet study.
Similarly, Jessica Einspänner narrated how she started as a media practice professional, working in the radio, but her fascination with media led her to theoretical studies. She noted that for students digital media appears as an exciting direction and a potentially well-paid job, however their expectations for practical skills are not always met within theoretical University-study programmes. Jessica also found that there is currently more encouragement in Germany towards women to continue with postdoc projects, after obtaining their PhD.
Lucia Vesnic-Alujevic who has worked for four years as a postdoctoral researcher in media studies, focused on the additional dimensions to her work that were added once she moved on to engage in science studies projects, such as the JRC ethics and ICTs project.
Following the introductory talks, speakers engaged in plenary discussion reflected on their own practices, and to gave advice about how to think ‘outside the box’, following the questions posed by the Chair.
what was your first job entering academia,
what is your ideal non-conventional job,
how would you do things differently had you known what you know now (even if this is your first job),
how is your job now different to what you had expected as a Ph.D. student,
how has the recent focus on digital methods and big data influenced your research? Has it changed your research interests and practice?
Veronica Barassi advised young scholars to build networks at the early stages of their career. She noted that the early years of contractual employment are difficult and that, sometimes, there needs to be a Plan B in place. Kate O’Riordan suggested that young scholars should seek to publish their PhD thesis as a book, to work on collaborative projects and to move around different institutions. Lucia Vesnic-Alujevic stronlgy encouraged young scholars to participate in the ECREA summer school.
The audience asked questions about publication strategies, namely what the position of the speakers was when it comes to high impact journal vs. open access. Here speakers noted that the Research Excellence Framework (REF) shapes to a great extend the publishing strategies of academics in the UK. The audience discussion also concerned billingual pubishing, and the legal framework for publishing in Germany and how official approval is required before submission.
This report is also published in the YECREA website blog, see http://yecrea.eu/node/2345
For a report on the Digital Culture and Communication workshop as a whole, and photos, see https://dccecrea.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/after-bonn-views-from-the-observatory/